Why would you pay $15 for an audio CD in a music store when you can download a perfectly good copy of an album from the Internet? The Internet makes possible creation of multiple digital copies of audio, video, graphic and textual files of impecible quality. And in the future, people will probably watch video clips and listen to music, downloaded from the Internet, on their television screens -- just the way they watch MTV now. However, if everybody is able to reproduce and perform the music for free, how would singers and composers get renumerated?
They won't, unless computer industry figures out the way of controlling the use of copyrighted material on the Internet and of preventing its unauthorized reproduction. In fact, several companies already offer the way of digitally attaching copyright information to graphics, audio and video works online. This process is called digital watermarking. Digimarc Corporation first introduced digital watermark technology in June 1995. A watermark is digitally embedded into an image. According to Digimarc Corp., a digital watermark imitates naturally occurring image variations and is repeated randomly throughout the image so it cannot be perceived. A Digimarc contains a wealth of information about an image including the names of its creator and distributor, copyright year, the image's identification number and some additional image attributes.
A digital watermark allows copyright owners to track the use of their images on the Internet and detect possible copyright violations. MarcSpider is a software, distributed by Digimarc Corp., that tracks copyrighted images on the web. MarcSpider crawls the web searching for images with digital watermarks and reports back the details about when and where these images are found. MarcSprider shows thumbnails of the found images with hyperlinks to the web sites where they were discovered.
Digital watermarking technology is also available for audio files. ARIS Technologies, Inc. came up with a MusiCode, a digital watermark that identifies, authentificates and protects intellectual property rights of singers and composers in their musical recordings. MusiCode enables copyright owners to embed indelible information within audio material while preserving flawless sound quality. In addition, MusiCode can not be removed from an audio file without seriously damaging its quality. This digital watermark travels together with a music recording regardless of the transmissions medium, be it the Internet, television or radio.
A Japanese corporation NEC has also introduced a digital watermark technology for audio and video files. It permanently embeds an invisible identification code directly into the data. A watermark is resistant to compression, rotation and cropping.
There is also a shareware program called Steganos, which encrypts and hides files within existing graphics, sound, text, and even HTML files. Unfortunately, Steganos does not support gif or jpeg files. However, according to Steganos, encrypted information is not lost through multiple conversion and save processes. This means that if a file is originally saved as a bit map file and subsequently converted to gif or jpeg format, the embedded information will be saved.
Even though at present, there may be no effective ways of preventing Internet users from copying protected files, several digital technologies allow copyright owners to track down the usage of their materials online and to detect potential violations of their exclusive rights.